Wednesday, Oct. 30, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Most Clark County residents will never hear the dreaded knock on the door.
But for those who need tenants evicted or whose wages are being garnished, the Las Vegas constable's office will be at the front step.
County residents on Nov. 5 will have their first opportunity in six years to choose who oversees those and other duties. The winner will serve for two years, until the office in 1998 resumes its regular four-year election cycle.
Democrat Bob Nolen, 55, is running to keep the seat he was appointed to three years ago.
The County Commission named Nolan to fill the seat in the wake of a scandal that brought down his predecessor, Don Charleboix, who was accused of selling deputies' badges.
Nolen, a former Las Vegas councilman and North Las Vegas policeman, is keying his race on the need to make the office more accountable and efficient. For instance, he wants to continue the computer program he initiated.
Former Metro officer William Carns, 26, the Republican challenger, said the office could be run more efficiently. He says he can serve papers faster with more part-time deputies than Nolen has.
"If you get enough people in part time, there's less overhead, and you can get the paperwork out in a better time frame," Carns said. "People will then stop going to private process servers and come to the constable's office, and the bottom line will actually increase."
With five full-time and three part-time deputies, Nolen said he has eliminated waste and corruption and reduced a backlog of cases. He said he wants to add two more part-time deputies and has issued a memo that all writs be served in 10 working days and small claims within 30 days.
"If I get re-elected, that means voters approve of the method I'm using to run the office," Nolen said. "The real issue is whether the office is being run efficiently and papers are being served, and the answer is yes to both."
At stake is a $63,700 a year job that supervises deputies who serve eviction and small claim notices and carry out civil court orders to garnish wages or take personal property for a debt. Last year, the office grossed $1.7 million, serving 23,000 eviction notices, 5,000 small claims and 2,400 writs of garnishment on personal property, wages and bank accounts, Nolen said.
Nolen has weathered a sea of morale problems, with several former deputies challenging him in the Democratic primary, and another filing allegations of ethics violations.
"Some former deputies would like to have me replaced, hoping they can get back in here, and have it like the old days when they collected half of everything this office brought in," Nolen said. "That would turn it into a losing proposition for the voters of this county."
But Carns advocates a return to the 50-percent commission, saying the pay cuts have hurt office morale.
"These guys are down to 32 percent, and their hourly wage is cut down substantially as well," Carns said. "That's not fair to them."
Carns said Nolen has begun making the office more efficient but now needs to expand services and restore deputies' pay and morale.
"That office should be run smoothly and outside of the public eye," Carns said.
Accountability is also a big issue, considering the corruption that has plagued the office prior to Nolen's appointment. Charleboix sold badges to more than 200 people to help finance his campaigns and he allegedly used office revenue as a personal slush fund.
The County Commission at one point wanted the office abolished and tried to get legislation to place it under the sheriff's office. But Nolen and Carns think the office should be separate, where it will remain answerable to voters.
"I believe this office should have more checks and balances built into the statute," Nolen said. "I think the County Commission recognizes that too, when they tried to eliminate it as an elected position, because once you're elected, the constable doesn't answer to anyone but the voters."
Nolen said the constable is a holdover from Nevada's pioneer days, but it still functions to keep the sheriff's office from having to tend to civil matters so that it can concentrate solely on criminal work.
Carns agreed that civil and criminal duties should be carried out by separate entities.
"The responsibilities are different than the sheriff," Carns said. "The sheriff deals with criminal law, and the constable is under civil law. To get civil law-trained employees with criminal background can be difficult."